Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern announced an assault weapons ban effective March 21 in response to the Christchurch mosque shooting that left 50 dead. New Zealand officials are refusing to name the perpetrator in all of their proceedings to avoid giving him notoriety for his actions. In general, New Zealand is a stranger to massive acts of terrorism such as this, but it wouldn’t appear so based on the government’s response.
Ardern has been quick to separate the country from hate groups, hate speech and hateful acts, and she made it clear that the country is on the side of the victims. In many developed countries, Muslims still face intense discrimination, even compared to other religious groups. New Zealand intends to right that wrong. In support of the victims and the Muslim community as a whole, Ardern said, "The families of the fallen will have justice."
On releasing the name of the shooter, Ardern said, “I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name."
What is known is the shooter was a man originally from Australia who purchased the weapons used in the attack legally through an online site. He had participated on online hate speech through his social media pages.
New Zealand’s approach is far different from that of previous mass shootings seen in America and abroad. In many cases, the name of the shooter becomes synonymous with the shooting itself, giving the terrorist exactly what they want.
The main focus now becomes the ban on assault weapons in the country.
Legislation stating the ban will be published next month, detailing that high-capacity magazines and military style assault weapons will be taken off the streets.
It took New Zealand’s parliament five days to reach an agreement banning assault weapons after one attack.
In 2018 alone, the United States experienced 323 mass shootings, resulting in 387 deaths and 1274 injuries. On Feb. 14, the Parkland shooting sparked a national discussion on assault weapons, with surviving students leading the movement to ban assault style weapons. The bill to ban the weapons was shot down by Florida state government after over a month of deliberation.
One cannot ignore the fact that the right to bear arms is engrained not only in the American constitution, but in the culture. The vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible adults with a healthy mental state. Most gun owners have them for their own protection.
Even still, it is frustrating to witness shooting after shooting and see nothing change. Innocent people continue to die at the hands of armed terrorists, and the news media struggles to even call armed gunmen terrorists. So much is wrong with the way our country handles shootings, it’s almost fair to say that they are not handled at all.
So, what can be done? To start, avoiding naming the perpetrator is a huge step in discouraging future shooters from actually going through with the act, since they would not be receiving any publicity. They need to be called what they are: terrorists.
In America, it is unlikely that guns as a whole will be banned, especially any time soon. But American lawmakers can take notes from the actions of New Zealand and see if their assault weapons ban will actually prevent another shooting of this magnitude . If it does, this is without a doubt a move that American lawmakers should consider.
At the very least, New Zealand did something. Far too many times, America has done nothing in response to mass shootings.
If any positive change can be derived from such a horrific act, and any future lives can be saved from this assault weapons ban in New Zealand, America needs to take notes and implement some of these changes for themselves. Too much is at stake to avoid addressing the problem.